Pros: Hand Ground wedges are made by the same craftsmen who create wedges for tour players. It’s one of the few custom wedge programs that allows consumers to select their favorite grind and tweak it to their preference. It also marks the first time average joes can get their hands on a raw Vokey wedge.
Cons: $350 is a lot for a handmade wedge, but it’s not out of line with Vokey’s competitors. Wedge fanatics will be disappointed that they can’t get handmade pitching wedges, gap wedges and sand wedges.
Bottom Line: A variety of stamping, shaping and sole options makes Hand Ground the go-to lob wedge program for exacting golfers. And if you want your wedge to come off the same grinding wheel as Adam Scott’s wedge, Hand Ground is for you.
Hand Ground isn’t the average wedge customization service.
Yes, like others it allows golfers to get their wedges with different stamps, letters and phrases. And it also gives golfers the option to pick a custom ferrule, shaft and grip. But Vokey’s WedgeWorks programs already provided all of those options before Hand Ground, along with the ability to purchase WedgeWorks exclusives — limited-edition and TVD wedges that are not available in stores.
Where Hand Ground breaks ground is in its focus on customizable grinds and wedge shaping, which allows golfers to tweak their favorite Vokey grind to their exact preference.
Four customizable grinds are available through Hand Ground: Vokey’s E Grind, M Grind, T Grind and V Grind, all of which have different playing characteristics. But the beauty of Hand Ground is that even if a golfer were to select a high-bounce wedge, such as a V Grind, he or she could have the wedge tweaked to play with less effective bounce.
That option, called “Pre-Worn” leading edge, is created by grinding off some of the metal on the front of a wedge’s sole. It works to “roll” the leading edge into the sole, allowing the leading edge to sit closer to the ground at address and cut through the ground better in firm conditions.
Conversely, a low-bounce wedge such as Vokey’s T Grind can be made to play with more effective bounce through the addition of a “Pro groove,” a small channel ground into the center of a wedge’s sole that moves the contact point forward. According to Bob Vokey, it can help golfers keep their wedges from digging into the ground on short pitches.
Above: A Vokey Hand Ground wedge with a pre-worn leading edge and a pro groove.
Aesthetic changes, such as making the leading edge straighter, the toe squarer or the top line thinner are also possible through Hand Ground.
It should be noted that Vokey is not the only wedge company to offer its grinding services to the public: Cleveland, Edel, James Patrick, Ping, Scratch and others offer wedge grinding and customization services, and unlike Vokey those companies expand their services to pitching, gap and sand wedges.
But none of those companies can claim the high usage of its wedges on the PGA Tour that Vokey boasts, which is the most mesmerizing part of the Hand Ground experience.
Above: Bob Vokey grinding a Hand Ground wedge for a customer at the Vokey tour department in Carlsbad, Calif.
Since Hand Ground wedges are created in Vokey’s tour department in Carlsbad, Calif., they’re made on the same machines by the same grinders that produce wedges for Adam Scott, Steve Stricker, Jason Dufner and the dozens of other Vokey wedge players on the PGA Tour.
Above: Each Hand Ground wedge comes with a certificate of authenticity that include the wedge’s specs and is signed by the person who ground the wedge.
Vokey Hand Ground wedges cost $350, and are available for purchase through Vokey’s website. All Hand Ground wedges have a raw finish, which means they will rust over time. According to Vokey, the build time of a Hand Ground wedge takes 10 days from the time the order is confirmed, not including shipping.
My Hand Ground was made with Vokey’s M Grind — the same grind that was on my current lob wedge, a retail Vokey SM4 60-10. I also ordered it to the same specs, which means that my Hand Ground wedge was nearly identical to my 60-10 on paper — same shaft, grip, swing weight and SM4 grooves. But when I took it to the course, the wedge performed differently thanks to the addition of a pre-worn leading edge.
Above: A Pre-worn leading edge on a Vokey M Grind Hand Ground wedge.
According to David Neville, Vokey’s marketing manager, wedges with pre-worn leading edges are requested by several tour players. The orders spike in the time before players are scheduled to head overseas for The Open Championship, where the modification helps golfer deal with the faster, firmer conditions that are typical on links golf courses. But you don’t have to be an Open Championship contestant to benefit from a pre-worn leading edge.
I had success with my retail Vokey 60-10 wedge I was fit for in December on straight-faced shots that required a lot of speed, because it allowed me to hit down on the ball steeply without fear that the wedge would dig. But I sometimes struggled to slide the sole of the wedge under the ball on delicate pitch shots from tight lies.
Above: The tale of two M Grinds.
The pre-worn leading edge solved that problem, because it made the leading edge sit slightly closer to the ground. That made it much easier for me to slide the wedge under the bottom of the ball, allowing me to contact the ball a groove or two higher on the face. The higher contact point made the ball climb up the face more, creating softer shots with more spin.
Above: Hand Ground wedges have the same SM4 grooves and face texture as Vokey’s retail wedge models to provide maximum spin.
As expected, the pre-worn leading edge made the wedge slightly more susceptible to digging compared to my 60-10. But the digging was limited to shorter shots I hit with a straight face and a lot of speed.
I noticed very little difference in the way the wedge performed on full shots and opened-faced shots, which says a lot about the cleverness of Vokey’s sole modifications. Adding a pre-worn leading edge or a pro groove will change a wedge enough to help a golfer do this or that, but it won’t change the wedge completely.
Looks and Feel
The second modification I had made to my Hand Ground wedge was having the top line made thinner, which Vokey does by removing a small amount of mass from the back of the top line. It’s a look that many golfers, particularly those who play irons with thin top lines, will appreciate at address.
Because Hand Ground wedges come with a raw finish, I speculated that they might have a slightly different feel than my retail wedges with a plated finish. But I was wrong — I didn’t find any difference in feel.
I did notice, however, that my Hand Ground wedge appeared smaller at address than my Vokey 60-10 with a plated “Tour Satin” finish.
Since Hand Ground wedges have no finish, they will rust as soon as they are introduced to water. In general, wedges with darker finishes look smaller than wedges with lighter finishes, which is why the rusted finish of a Hand Ground will look smaller than a wedge with a Tour Satin finish.
If you’re a Vokey lover, there’s only two good reasons not to get a Hand Ground wedge:
- It’s out of your price range.
- You haven’t taken the time to learn what grind or grind modification will help you play better.
$350 is a lot to pay for a wedge, especially for golfers who like to practice and can wear out as many as two new wedges per season. But it’s a two-edged sword — usually, if golfers are willing to put in the time to practice their wedge game, they’re also willing to spend the money to have their perfect wedge built.
For golfers who don’t know what grind is best for them, I can’t recommend a wedge fitting enough. Wedge makers are offering more grind options on their retail wedges than ever before, and golfers who aren’t testing all the different retail bounce, sole width and camber options aren’t getting the most out of their wedge games.
If you’ve already done such a fitting and think that a program like Vokey’s Hand Ground can help you, you’re probably right. Aside from the putter, no club is more important to scoring than the lob wedge, and golfers should take care to make sure they’re playing one that fits them as well as possible.